A Jumping Escape from Justice

Source: Pakistan Times Youtube

It was not a leap of faith. It was a jump of desperation.

It would be criminal of us to even remotely pretend to know what this person must be going through.

Sajid Masih is the latest casualty of the impeccable Islamic Sharia Justice system that we are so proud of. But wait, it is not Islamic Sharia system. Because in the case of Islamic Sharia, he would have been beheaded long ago. Though would he have endured the kind of abuse that Sajjad did is debatable. At least you can be sure of it in Pakistan’s imperfect law enforcement and the justice system. Let’s blame it on the colonial times.

Pakistan’s federal law enforcement agency FIA has been accused of abuse and torture by a dying man. That man is a Pakistani of Christian faith known as Sajjad Masih. He is the cousin of fellow detainee Patras Masih, who is accused of blasphemy and was detained with his cousin. According to him, apart from brutally torturing them, the FIA officials forced them to have oral sex with each other. While other mortals might have succumbed to their vile demands, Sajjad chose to break free and jump from the fourth floor of the building instead, regardless of consequences.

Check this tweet out by politician and activist Jibran Nasir.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Now you may say that this is simply the big government going out of control but this is far more than that. While the sadistic FIA officials may have a habit of having fun at the expense of the detained individuals but they were not keeping Sajid and his cousin locked for fraud or murder exactly. It makes the occurrence all the more tragic and infuriating when you realize that they were being held for committing absolutely no crime at all. There really is no need to prove the insanity of

Here is the video in unadulterated form.

It is important to document instances such as this because of the social conservative majority in Pakistan that refuses to accept the wrong a theocratic constitution is doing to the non-Muslim minorities. It is also important to remind them that a secular constitution.

Source: Reuters

Sajid Masih’s misery and his struggle with life and death are a direct consequence of the draconian blasphemy law in Pakistan. People failing to recognize and at least voice their opinion against them are being complacent to one of the most blatant systematic and apartheid murders happening in our times. And if Pakistan was not getting enough bad publicity, Rome made the Colosseum go red to protest the blasphemy law in Pakistan.

The secular democratic forces in Pakistan must unite in the manner of the manifesto of such a larger movement proposed by the Awami Workers Party, which actually deserves another post but here goes.

If not for any other reason, we must come together to get rid of this evil from Pakistan. We can’t claim to reform our corrupt authoritarian state but perhaps we can at least do our due to defeat the organized apartheid theocratic terrorism in Pakistan.

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The Most Tolerant Nation on Earth

Source:  bosnewslife.com

Source: bosnewslife.com

Pakistanis are by far the most tolerant nation on earth.

They are easily the most tolerant considering how much shit they put up with. I am not even sure why are they accused of intolerance in the society, considering their loving, forgiving nature.

Want to try it? Ask the person sitting next to you about the possible hanging of Asia Bibi. Or even the YouTube ban, which is so embarrassing, that it makes you wonder if you should ever say that you are proud to be a Pakistani.

But enough of the elitist first world digital age problems.

Just look at all the tolerance that has been going on all this time. We have been tolerating and forgiving every single atrocity. From the Gojra riots to the Joseph Colony arson, and from the murder of Christian couple in Kot Radha Kishan to the Gulberg Park bombing, all is in the natural order of things.

The recent episode has been the condemnation of the entire community of Christians in Mandi Bahauddin in the name of the honor of the Prophet. We have had such cases several times, in which a person’s loose tongue has warranted the collective punishment of a community. Won’t be the last because we are too tolerant to be moved by such horrors.

Perhaps the only way to survive is to convert to Islam once and for all. Because somehow that makes the rioting majority love the “janitors” all of a sudden.  Though think about it, who would remain a janitor if everyone converted to Islam? Perhaps that thought could ignite some intolerance among the forgiving majority.

I must say, these Christians and Hindus in Pakistan are either too brave or too moronic. And don’t even mention the Ahmedis. They are a special, incurable breed of crazy.

Things like that usually do not happen in most countries, and when they do, it is usually a big deal. But no, it’s just business as usual for Pakistan. Just shut up, look the other way. Hey, harmony and inner peace are important. At least, that’s what my shrink tells me.

We can still question considered outrageous in a parallel universe called Planet Earth, and ask our fellow citizens for their reaction. Only to be met by a silence, by looking the other way.

We privately do question these atrocities, but would seldom do it in public. With the exception of a few nutcases such as Sabeen Mahmud, Jibran Nasir, Taimur Rehman and Farzana Bari, who are so passionate in their activism that it honestly makes me nauseate and feel ashamed at the same time. That is why they remain constantly under the attacks of extremists and nationalist conservatives.

And I wonder if they make a hypocrite like me feel ashamed, what about folks with much higher moral standards? At least to not look the other way.

But do these handful really represent the majority of our society? While they are acting on the logic of the attendance of the Islamic funeral alright, but is their tiny participation enough to make a difference? Perhaps not, because these drivers-of-foreign-agenda are far outnumbered by more tolerant, more patriotic, nicer people.

The tolerance of our moralist political commentators on the television is particularly praiseworthy, who would constantly babble sermons against financial corruption day in and day out. While their passion for mourning the stolen wealth of the nation is exemplary, they would also look the other way when atrocities against non-Muslims, or even the peasants of Renala Khurd, are brought up.

Perhaps, it is time that the educated, civilized Pakistan become a little intolerant in order to discourage, if not put an end to, atrocities against the cornered. Too much to ask?

But then again, it’s probably propaganda funded by foreign NGOs anyway, for which I have thanked these mysterious organizations several times before.

It is probably wise not to care for the sheep and steer clear of the shearer. Because that appears to be in the self-interest of those who have not gotten to the position of the vulnerable yet. Besides, it’s safe.

Granted, but should we be doing that and claim moral superiority for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and its great, true national faith? Because God knows that claim is true.

That still raises some serious moral questions of a population pious enough to go to great lengths not to miss a fast on even a single day in the scorching, dehydrating heat of June.

 

Too bad God only cares about those who really believe in him and those who fast during the month of Ramadan.

 

A version of the post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Pakistani Free Speech Hero of the Year 2013: Sabeen Mahmud

Source: inc.com

Source: inc.com

A right that is almost taken for granted and even denied in Pakistan is that of free speech, and any honor for its promotion is barely ever acknowledged.

Since no one else would bother to say this, at least I would have to. And I am upset with myself for not acknowledging a free speech hero last year. Anyway, partially, that hero was also prominent this year, that is, Malala Yousafzai. No surprises there.

Apart from Malala, a number of people like assassinated politicians Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, journalists Saleem Shahzad and Umar Cheema, Oscar winning filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and alleged blasphemer Asia Bibi, who everyone has conveniently forgotten, have been prominent in years prior to 2013. It is also important to acknowledge PPP co-Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari for publicly expressing his wish to see a non-Muslim as the Prime Minister of Pakistan in his lifetime, contrary to the provision in the constitution.

But more important free speech heroes are the ones who are in close proximity to threats and yet take the initiative to speak their minds, even if that means challenging the blind authority and unreasonable norms of the society.

To my mind, the Pakistani free speech hero of the year 2013 is social activist and entrepreneur Sabeen Mahmud.

Sabeen took flak after she started a counter initiative to respond to the anti Valentine’s Day campaign of Tanzeem-e-Islami. Her campaign involved rather amusing messages promoting love, such as “Pyaar Hone De” or roughly ‘Let there be love’, in front of the billboard messages from the religious movement prohibiting Valentine’s Day celebrations, citing verses and traditions. It immediately became controversial.

The content cannot be found any more on the Express Tribune website, the publication which primarily covered her campaign, because it is considered in bad taste by a number of Muslims. The publication even issued an apology for the campaign slideshow.

However, I have seen the pictures from the campaign and can testify that there was hardly anything about the campaign that was offensive. It would have been seen in a completely different light, if many of us had a little sense of humor.

Yet Sabeen was harassed by random people on social media, which included death threats, apart from coarse and abusive language. She was even threatened with a fatwa.

Her apt and enterprising response to the hate speech onslaught was the Nafrat Aggregator, an online tool that quantifies reported hate speech on social media.

Sabeen Mahmud has also been the driving force behind other initiatives such as the Pakistan for All campaign with Muhammad Jibran Nasir and Taimur Rehman, which involved the formation of human chains around Cathedrals and churches to express solidarity with the Christian community in major cities around Pakistan, the Hug YouTube campaign and Pakistan’s first hackathon in Karachi. She is also the founder of T2F in Karachi and is the Director of PeaceNiche.

It is a shame that such individuals are harassed instead of being admired by our society, as it is supposed to be in a democracy, just because they have a dissenting voice on certain issues.

But this is precisely why she is an inspirational free speech hero. I fully support and endorse her, even if I am not half as enthusiastic to legislate against hate speech.

While I admire all her work, this acknowledgment is primarily for her stance in the Valentine’s Day campaign controversy.

To quote her: “Fear is just a line in your head”.

The Embarrassment of Standing With the Oppressed

Source: M. Jibran Nasir facebook page

Source: M. Jibran Nasir facebook page – Under fair use

I am not particularly proud to be a Pakistani citizen.

I don’t really find it an unpatriotic thing to say because someone sympathetic to the country would say that provided its discriminating history. The Pakistani constitution, law and the society are largely discriminating.

So when you stand with the oppressed minority groups in Pakistan, there is this perpetual embarrassment that you need to deal with.

Take the Pakistan Christian community for an example, the most popular and widely recognized religious minority group in Pakistan. Most Pakistani people would agree with offering them security and coexisting peacefully with them.

Even with such a minority religious group, you would have the dilemma of treating them as if they were weak or not even raising that point at all. I mostly prefer to do the latter usually, though you can always agree with them tactfully about how terrible discrimination is.

Morally speaking, they are not weak, and it would be rather insulting to make that point, but let us face facts. They are not exactly powerful and are most certainly oppressed.

Especially in the wake of the Peshawar church bombing killing more than 300, the realization is increased, especially in protests and political events. But what remains is their constant friendliness, peacefulness and tolerance. What is added is a slight anger toward the intolerance, which is justified, natural and understandable.

I have no sympathies with the theology of any minority religious group, as is the case with majority religious groups, because they are as dangerous in their effect as the other. I know some Pakistani Christians, though not everyone, are as eager for their share of blasphemy law, despite knowing how harmful it can be to just about anyone.

But their religious zeal does not change anything for the better for them in the Pakistani society, where disbelief is a crime, more or less, or enough to qualify someone to be ostracized. Besides, they are not treated as equal citizens anyway, despite their religiosity.

So I want to save myself further embarrassment and would like to say that protesters and activists rallying for peace and against terrorism should raise their voices to demand a secular constitution. So while I may not exactly be proud to be a Pakistani citizen, I would have one less reason to be ashamed.

So instead of promoting gibberish like “Many Faiths, One God”, we should demand the elimination of the intrusion of faith into public life.

Keep your religion to yourself.

The Morality of Firing on Mobs

Source: ryot.org

Source: ryot.org

How would you handle a rioting mob?

Especially when you know for sure that it is going to damage personal property, and possibly harm and kill people.

Would you consider firing on them?

I bet you would if they were coming after your home, and your possessions.

Maybe not, but maybe most of us would.

You know, perhaps we have this political or public morality and private morality in a sense.

You may not be comfortable firing on a rioting mob as a political opinion but might do that, let alone consider doing that, if you are threatened yourself.

I asked myself this question after an angry mob burned down houses of Christian families in Badami Bagh, Lahore.

Now all this sounds a little too simplistic and distant, but I would really like you to see this from a completely personal perspective.

If you cannot imagine this from the viewpoint of a poor woman who lost her TV and washing machine, as well as her very home in the Badami Bagh incident, then consider your own living space under the threat of the riot.

Just picture for a second that you are sitting peacefully in your room, working on your computer and watching TV.  And after a few minutes, everything is gone after a violent mob raided your place. Breaking your computer and TV and setting your place on fire.

Even the thought of it is horrifying. And it is just taken for granted what the families in Badami Bagh would have gone through. Though it is not the only incident in which such tragedies have occurred.

So what would you do if a mob were raiding your place? Would you use violence, or gunfire, against them to stop them?

I know tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons are effective ways to disperse mobs. But what if no such support is available?

Would you fire on them?

While the Badami Bagh case was targeted arson, would you advocate using such force during violent demonstrations?

Would you handle the situation in the same way if you were in the government?

Would justifying it for one case would justify it for others? And then would there be any limit to the use of firearms against rioting or even demonstrating crowds? Which is why I would only support peaceful demonstrations because there is no justification of using violence against it whatsoever.

Or should governments just let rioting mobs run free? Let the crime take place and then arrest offenders afterwards?

If yes, should such an entity be ideally called a government?

Alternatively, is there a justification to take preemptive violent action against crowds “expected” to turn really violent.

These are troubling moral questions to which I guess many people would have different answers for each case, by which I mean public and private opinions. At least I am not sure if I could refrain from deterring them this way.

You just need to picture yourself in the middle of that chaos to really be honestly able to answer these questions.

Pardon me for asking that many questions though. But that’s the trouble with morality. It offers you a lot of questions but very few answers.

In the end, how would you respond if police, Punjab Police to be specific in this case, would do nothing more than evacuate the targeted colony for the rioting mob to burn down, just because they are outraged by blasphemy?

Does that mean that people should resort to using arms on their own to protect their lives and property?

But wait, powerful thugs all around Pakistan carry guns and harass people in the name of security and defense.

Poor old Christian families in Punjab cannot.

Sweeping the Ashes Beneath the Green and the White

Source: Nayyar Afaq/Unknown

Source: Nayyar Afaq/Unknown

Happy Pakistan Day. The Day of the Green and, yes, even the White.

Of talking about Quaid-e-Azam and Allama Iqbal and their delusional visions that brought about a humanitarian disaster. A lab with some 180 million lab rats, and I am not even counting those which have passed away.

I don’t want to be a cynic today, though there are few better other occasions. I love the idea of Pakistan Day. But that’s not what I am talking about here. I want to talk about our conservative ideals.

This addresses Pakistanis primarily. Pakistani Muslims and Pakistani Muslim Nationalists.

Those who are proud of their infallible ideology which can never possibly fail when it comes to righteousness and how people should be treated.

The ones with an all-encompassing code of life that covers just about every area of life with great justice and peace.

The ones who have presented the best way to the world to treat those who refrain from believing in their faith even though residing in their domain.

I want them to recall what happened on the fateful days from late February to June 2002 in the Indian state of Gujarat that resulted in the death of 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus as per the official figures.

I want them to recall Muslims houses burned by Hindu mobs there with little or no intervention from the police. And I want them to recall how they and all of us had reacted to that, criticizing the Indian state’s failure to protect the minority religious group.

Thankfully not with such drastic consequences, but equally horrifyingly, a mob of angry and pious Muslims, most of them young boys apparently, set fire to the houses and possessions of poor Christians living in Badami Bagh, downtown Lahore because one of their boys was said to have blasphemed against the Prophet.

Source: Express Tribune

Source: Express Tribune

There is something common between a few of incidents in the Gujarat riots and the Joseph Colony riots in Lahore.

The police made no attempt to save the victims.

But then again, this is usually the case historically in the subcontinent. Isn’t it?

Has not Shahbaz Sharif been as complicit as Narendra Modi in his handling of the affair?

Gojra riots and Gujrat riots. Even the letters try hard to separate them.

Yes, is Shahbaz Sharif Pakistan’s Narendra Modi?

Maybe not, not for us to decide maybe and who cares, but what about the role of Punjab police, who are supposed to protect the defenseless Christians?

Oh well, but why complain about it. The only difference however was that Muslims in India are strong enough to fight back against the Hindu mobs, or at least have been known to. Since they have mobs of their own attacking Hindus too.

Though it is actually ridiculously unfair to even come close to compare Gujarat riots to the Joseph Colony incident on so many levels, but the degree of offense can only be made out by humanistic and secular eyes. We are dealing with the absurd and ridiculous over here .

The riots in Gujarat sparked after Muslims set a train containing Hindu pilgrims on fire, after a Muslim girl’s kidnap, while others say it was an orchestrated conspiracy. But neither did the Pakistani Christians do anything as wrong, or that is at least what anyone not a fervent Muslim would think, nor are they strong enough to have even the remotest hope of responding back in anger.

Alright I don’t have to make it too long. The point is clear here.

I want the conservative Muslims of Pakistan to read it and I will try sending out that message in Urdu as well. But while keeping little more odds of staying alive, I can still send out the message to the one or two of the Pakistani Muslim conservatives Pakistani Muslims who happen to stumble upon this blog.

The Pakistani Muslims who would criticize Indian Hindu extremists for harming Muslims would tolerate incidents like Joseph Colony and Gojra riots at home, being as complicit and as protective of the culprits as their similar adversaries across the border.

To my eyes, there is hardly any difference between the two, which is why they hate each other so. And that is the ultimate insult to them.

Source: Mohsin Raza/Reuters

Source: Mohsin Raza/Reuters

But make no mistake about what happened in Joseph Colony. Make no mistake about its horrors and the misery of having your home attacked and your possession and memories burned to ashes and dust.

Home lost, families forced to live under tents or in indefinitely temporary camps, as was or would have been the case with some rendered homeless in Gujarat.

Let it be for possessing the land or whatever political crimes may be the reason behind this incident, the fact remains that the masses acted on their religious beliefs, and we love to protect that part of our faith.

And oh, how terrible this tragedy has been, and how wrong it was and there were only a handful of people doing it and how it should not have happened, would be the answers we have to it. But we wouldn’t want to face what is causing this behavior over and over again. That’s all there is to this matter and nothing more.

Good and evil do not matter anymore.

The key here is not to emphasize how atrocious the Joseph Colony tragedy is, but to tell Pakistani Muslim Conservatives how idiotic they are.

Of Honor and Cruelty

Protest in Karachi for Rimsha Case (Source: Sunny Gill for Christians in Pakistan)

I missed talking about a recent case of public lynching that took place in Tando Adam, Sindh, recently, as I had not outraged about it half as much as I had done with the Sialkot incident. The Tando Adam incident is important because it is more offensive in so many ways. While the brothers in Sialkot were suspected robbers, the boys killed in Tando Adam were suspected by people of having sex with a girl in an “illegitimate” way, which was apparently not forceful. The young boys were brutally beaten in public and made to bleed to death. Sounds worse than Muslim Hell to me.

So now you cannot even have sex with some random person in Pakistan without getting killed. But thankfully, most of the people get away with it without meeting such fate. These particular individuals were not so lucky unfortunately. As usual the local police was nowhere to be seen but not sure if they were as much involved along with the primary offenders as in the Sialkot case. The video clip got leaked or was released with planning this time around as well and the media further propagated it. In any case, such brutalities of the society should not go unnoticed. The following video has extremely graphic content, posting for the record.

Ghairat” which is roughly and pretty inappropriately translated to the word “honor”, has been a great domestic killer in Pakistan, though it is also a phenomenon prevalent in the rest of the sub-continent. Not long ago, the parents, the brother and the sister of a Pakistani-Belgian girl have been found guilty for murdering her “in the name of honor” and are now doing time. While some people have objected to the term “honor killing” for the righteous impression it could give and have called for changing it with something like “dishonor killing” or something (which sounds even more ridiculous), I think that keeping it this way busts the myth that something like murder could be associated with (false) honor.

Well so much for the copulation-preventing honor, but “ghairat” is a term with a much more broader meaning and it actually also applies to being empathetic and sensitive towards atrocities and injustice, believe it or not. So while our nation can be perfectly “ghairatmand” or “honorable” to kill its daughters for having their own way with their sex lives, it is perfectly “beghairat” or dishonorable for letting a little girl rot in jail for a “crime” that she does not even understand. Blasphemy.

Just after 3 days of the 65th independence day and 3 days before Eid, Rimsha Masih, a young girl of 11 or 14 years of age, and who happens to be Christian, was arrested by the Islamabad police on the charge of desecrating the Holy Koran in the G-12 sector of Islamabad, the nation’s capital. The girl has been reported to be suffering from Down’s Syndrome, a mental disorder which disables a child’s cognitive abilities. At that age and with that mental condition, I can hardly imagine if she would even be aware of the existence of Muslims or the Koran, let alone the thought of understanding any hatred fed to her by anyone, as is the impression on many people.

The child was reported to be caught by some locals with burned pieces of a children’s learning book for reading the Koran, so you cannot even be sure if the burned page had any Koranic verses on it. But let’s suppose there must be. Regardless of that, it was inhuman of some of the locals to try beating the child and to hand her over to the police and she is still rotting in their custody. Ironically, handing her over to the police is considered rather safe in this case. What’s worse, the Christians of the colony had started leaving for the fears of a Gojra like incident, in which Muslim mobs set an entire Christian colony on fire. The matter has finally come to the attention of mainstream media, after days of outrage in the Pakistani social media circles, which has actually led to somewhat shocking discoveries.

Hafiz Khaled Chishti (Source: PukhtoonistanGazette)

On Geo TV political talkshow Capital Talk, which is hosted by journalist Hamid Mir, the Imam Masjid, or roughly the pastor of the local mosque, Hafiz Khaled Chishti was interviewed. He admitted on TV that he had been urging the locals to drive the members of Christian community out of the area, “since we are an Islamic state”, and that their presence was causing a hindrance to allow them to perform their “religious obligations”. What I cannot figure out is why that Imam Masjid has not been arrested for such a sermon instead of that poor troubled little girl. I think you hardly need to say anything else about the state and government of Pakistan and the moral degeneration of its self-righteous society.

Furthermore, the most disappointing aspect of the talk show was that no one was ready to even discuss that blasphemy should be challenged as a crime or not, which is the reason why the tone of this post is so biased in favor of the child. Also it is shameful how condescending the attitude of some of the participants was towards the “minorities”. The anchor seeing the silver lining that people actually did not seek mob justice and did not set her house on fire and the Maulana on the panel bestowing the favor of letting Christians conduct their religious ceremonies and congregations. Well thank you very much. I find it utterly disgusting.

I think we have a long way to go, if there is any end in sight anyway.

The following is the talk show as available on youtube in Urdu.

This post is dedicated to all the people who claim that Islam is an all-encompassing religion which offers complete protection to non-Muslims in a society under its domain. It is also dedicated to the people who think that certain religious minorities such as Christians are not being persecuted in Pakistan and it also requires the attention of those who consider Muslims to be incapable of any such behavior.

But then again, why worry.

Rimsha is just another guinea pig to be sacrificed in Quaid-e-Azam’s laboratory of Islam.